The Covered Dish - Old-Fashioned Asparagus

May 15, 2024

It’s only appropriate when you pen a column, on your birthday, you feature a recipe that reflects a part of who you are, a historical throw-back. Actually, thank goodness, I know what great dish I want to share today because for the last 3 days everything has been a bit hazy. A sinus infection hit me midweek, and everything since has just been a bit of a blur. For Mother’s Day our son, Phillip, took the lead and prepared us a wonderful chicken dish for dinner. I coached him through the lite al fredo sauce and he sailed into a wonderful meal.

Let’s pop back to circa 1964, there was only one way to prepare asparagus. Eating it slightly blanched on a salad was unheard of, not to mention asparagus soups and casseroles. We enjoyed it only ‘one’ way, the way my grandmother, Lucy Rightmire Richardson prepared the vegetable. The stalks were trimmed and steamed on top of the stove, in a small saucepan she placed milk, butter, salt and pepper. Yet in another pan she prepared hard boiled eggs. In the ‘oven’ (no toasters at the farm) she prepared 5-6 slices of bread. As everything came together, she broke the bread into small pieces, layered in pieces of asparagus poured the milk sauce over the top and lastly laid on sliced hard-boiled eggs. The whole time my grandmother was alive I never ate asparagus; I thought it was disgusting. (I enjoyed the hard-boiled eggs).

The typical sauce for asparagus was a lemony butter hollandaise sauce. My synopsis on the milk sauce was it was more ‘country’ than the fancy hollandaise sauce, and any cook could make it. The recipe I share today is made with a white sauce, which can be turned and flipped a variety of ways to make it lighter, or more like a hollandaise.

This was the only way I saw asparagus served as a very young girl. I still didn’t start eating it myself until my mid-twenties, now it is a favorite by far. When my mother, Betty was alive she had lots of myths about asparagus and how it had such a wonderful after-effect on our body functions. We both think it was the dairy, I also think it had to do with the time factor of cutting and serving times.

How do you eat asparagus? Etiquette shows us that it is very proper to cut a long stalk in half and pick it up with your fingers. I know, Ervin was surprised too!

I haven’t prepared our asparagus this way for quite some time because Phillip loves it anyway it’s presented. Last time he leaned over the platter and said this half is mine, and the rest is for everyone else!

One of my favorite breakfasts would be mushroom sherried eggs, asparagus, fruit and fresh breads, muffins, etc. The colors are vibrant and the plate is so appealing. Enjoy these days of springtime weather, pretty quickly they will be gone. Simply yours, The Covered Dish.

Old-Fashioned Asparagus

3-4 hard-boiled eggs

1 pound asparagus steamed, grilled or sauteed

3-4 pieces of toast

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups milk

2-3 tablespoons, butter

1/2 cup your choice of cheese-usually I use American, (or not?)

Begin by trimming the tough ends off the bottom of the cleaned asparagus before steaming. Boil the eggs, remove shells and thinly slice with an egg slicer. Place the milk, butter, salt, pepper and cheese into a shallow dish to make a thickened white sauce. Pour the warm sauce over the asparagus and top with the warm sliced eggs. If you want the sauce to have more body add a little cornstarch or flour to thicken it to your desires.

Another year older, another outstanding memory, I can close my eyes and see it all over again. Memories they’re the best. Build new ones, and ‘repeat’ the old!